No name is more synonymous with entrepreneurialism on the Space Coast than Bernie Simpkins. A lifelong evangelist for the thrill and the challenge of the free enterprise system, Simpkins has underwritten the B.W. Simpkins Entrepreneurial Lecture Series at Eastern Florida State College for the past few years. The series has brought some of the most successful entrepreneurs and business leaders to the Space Coast – from Al Neuharth to Don Shula – to envision, to inspire and to educate students of all ages.
Simpkins left his position with a major oil supplier and launched a heating oil company in 1962. From there, he built a fuel and convenience store empire, became a real estate developer and owned a Merritt Island Toyota dealership for 26 years.
Simpkins once said, “One of the most important words for entrepreneurs is ‘potential.’ And I recognized that in Brevard County, the potential was going to build here. You always want to start a business, if possible, in an area where the potential is growing, not where it’s decreasing.” With the inspiration and example of successful entrepreneurs like Bernie Simpkins, the potential of the Space Coast will continue to expand. For his achievements, his contributions and his enduring example, we are and will always be in his debt.